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Jerry Sullivan: Right back to Square One

By Jerry Sullivan

"The Bills are at a crossroads, whether Wilson admits it or not. He has a bad team, an inferior front office, an increasingly disaffected fan base, and no franchise quarterback. And now, at last, a vacant head-coaching position."

I wrote those lines in November of 2009, on the day the Bills got around to firing Dick Jauron. Maybe I should just resubmit my entire column from that day, plugging in new names, and get a quick start on my New Year's. Why not? As you can tell, not a whole lot has change in three years.

Video: Gailey's full statement
Related: Bills make it official: Gailey is firedNFL Network's analysts' takesPlayers' tweets about firingKey dates for coaching searchFitzpatrick not keen on being a backup

Wilson promised big changes at the time. He waved his checkbook and said none of the big NFL names were off-limits. The Bills would spare no expense in their determination to build a winning program and set a dysfunctional franchise back on the path to respectability.

Then he gave us Buddy Nix as general manager and Chan Gailey as coach. Three years later, after winning one-third of his games and stretching the streak of non-playoff seasons to 13, Gailey is gone. As expected, he and his entire staff were relieved of their duties late Monday morning.

Nix's fate is up in the air. He deserves to be shown the door, too. He hired Gailey and his weak defensive coordinators. He made Ryan Fitzpatrick a franchise quarterback without identifying a successor. But Wilson, who put great trust in Nix, might not be want to fill both jobs again.

Gailey was a weary, defeated man in a brief address to the media. He betrayed no bitterness. He didn't lay blame. He said he understood the realities of the business and that he had not won enough. He was a decent soul, a gentleman to the end.

His voice breaking, Gailey thanked the "loyal, loyal" fans of Buffalo. I'm sure he felt that he had let them down in his three losing seasons here. No doubt, he also felt he let down his friend, Nix, who gave him a last, and largely unexpected, chance as a NFL head coach.

"This will probably be -- and I say probably, but I think it will be -- the first place that’s ever fired me that I’ll pull for,” Gailey said.

He can start by rooting for the Bills to find their franchise quarterback in the next draft. There are a lot of reasons for the 13-year playoff drought. But the lack of a true franchise quarterback is at the top of the list. Until they find a true star at the position, they won't be a legitimate contender.

I can urge Ralph Wilson to open his checkbook and shoot for the sky, the way I did in '09. But it won't be easy to attract one of the big coaching names without a viable quarterback on the roster. There are enough drawbacks as it is -- the town, the weather, the failing health of the owner, the fact they farm out one home game a year to Toronto.

If they had one of the hot young quarterbacks in place, they'd have more chance of luring a top coaching candidate to Buffalo: Jon Gruden, Lovie Smith, Chip Kelly, Mike McCoy or Dirk Koetter. Seven NFL head coaches have been fired today. The list of candidates will thin out, as it did three years ago. One way or another, the Bills have a formidable task on their hands.


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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |